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This Kind of Black Belt Can Help You Score Points By HAL LANCASTER September 14, 1999 WILL EARNING a black belt give your career a boost? Jack Welch tells his young management charges to master theSix Sigma discipline that leads to black belts if they want to move up at General Electric. AlliedSignal sees the program as a prime source for developing new management talent. "Six Sigma is reallyturning into the hot-button issue of the day," says Jeffrey Shrull, a black belt and a quality manager at a Weyerhaeuser container board plant in Kentucky. Hal Lancaster answers readers' questions oncareer issues in Career Corner. Send your questions or comments by e-mail to Hal.Lancaster@wsj.com . So what is a business black belt? Well, it isn't related to karate chops, but even veteran blackbelts struggle to explain how the quality-improvement program known as Six Sigma works. First advanced by Motorola around 1986, the rigorous training provides managers with specialized measurement andstatistical tools to help reduce defects in products and processes and to cut costs. About 50,000 people have been trained in the approach, and it continues to grow at true-believer corporate giants,including Citicorp and Johnson & Johnson, and their suppliers. But being a black belt means different things at different companies. Some see it as a leadership training ground. Others view it merely asa helpful set of analytical tools for line managers and professionals. While the training can certainly improve your skills as a manager, getting a career boost from it may depend more on where youwork. Candidates seeking their company's version of the training need to be grounded in math, statistics, data analysis, finance and computer skills. "There is a heavy emphasis on measurement sciences,business analysis and achieving measurable bottom-line results," says Six Sigma guru A. Blanton Godfrey, chairman and CEO of Juran Institute, a Wilton, Conn., consulting firm. COMPLETE the...
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